Will Hodgson's bold gamble pay off?
England boss banks on youth and form but lack of experience could be telling
The grand old man of Euro 2016 has decided to give youth a chance.
With a swing of his broom, Roy Hodgson has done away with the tried-and-tested.
There won't be seats for the likes of Theo Walcott, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and Andy Carroll on the plane to France.
Instead, the oldest manager at Euro 2016 is placing his faith in a large group of young starlets who shone in this season's English Premier League.
In possibly his last throw of the dice, the 68-year-old manager, whose contract expires after the tournament, has taken his biggest gamble yet. He's going for the leap of faith.
Marcus Rashford is the showpiece of his daring game plan.
The 18-year-old Manchester United striker earned the shock nod over more experienced candidates when Hodgson announced his 26-man preliminary squad yesterday, which will be cut to 23 for the June 10-July 10 tournament.
England are drawn in Group B with Slovakia, Russia and Wales.
The speed of Walcott, the aerial prowess of Carroll and the rejuvenation of Defoe could not sway the conservative Hodgson.
The England manager has gone instead for potential, saying: "He's (Rashford) got a big future if he can develop as he has so far."
Hodgson's squad is headlined by the precocious young tyros from Tottenham Hotspur who, for a long time, threatened to win the English Premier League title with their stylish football.
Never mind that Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker combine for a meagre 36 international caps.
Or that Premiership champions Leicester City's two representatives - Jamie Vardy and Danny Drinkwater - share only seven internationals between them.
Hodgson has shown his hand and, on the surface, it looks like an exciting, young squad.
However, it remains to be seen if the relative lack of experience at a major tournament will derail their chances of winning a first international title since 1966.
Fourteen players in the 26-man squad - England must submit a final squad list of 23 by Uefa's deadline at the end of the month - have never played in a European Championship or a World Cup.
Between the 26 players, they share just 511 international caps, which translates to an average of less than 20 caps per player.
Only three players - Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart and James Milner - have made more than 50 England appearances.
Thirteen players, or half the squad, have collected 10 or less caps.
On the other side of the coin, the new-look team may be less likely to carry baggage from the past, as Hodgson himself admitted recently.
The Three Lions, whose only major triumph came in the World Cup five decades ago, have not made it to the semi-finals of the European Championship since 1996, the year they last hosted it.
Speaking at an England media briefing at L'Escargot in Soho last month, Hodgson said: "Baggage does weigh and, when you have had a lot of failures about you, it weighs on you, if you like."
The majority of the squad will link up tomorrow, except the Man United and Liverpool players because of their club commitments.
England have three warm-up games lined up - against Turkey at the Etihad Stadium this Sunday, Australia at the Stadium of Light on May 27 and Portugal at Wembley on June 2.
The Three Lions then begin their Euro 2016 campaign against Russia on June 11.
Are they the real deal or will it be another false dawn?
Your guess is as good as mine.
PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP
ROY EXPLAINS HIS SELECTIONS
"He's one of the contenders, of course. It's great to be able to include him. There's no reason why he can't knock someone off their perch, but it will be harder than some people might expect."
- Roy Hodgson (above) on Marcus Rashford's chances of featuring in his final 23-man squad
"Theo unfortunately has not got such a regular game over the last few months and has had a few problems with injury. It's a tough decision of course, but it's one you have to take."
- Hodgson on dropping Arsenal's Theo Walcott
"There are only 23 players so I decided ... (to take) seven defenders rather than the classic eight, to give me a chance to take one more player in the midfield and forwards section."
- Hodgson explaining the omission of veteran defenders Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka
Three Lions' alternative 11
At 33, West Brom's Ben Foster continues to be a fixture at the Hawthorns, knows Hodgson from their time together there and already has eight caps to his name.
Left back is a crowded field, with Leighton Baines the most high-profile and Kieran Gibbs also having international experience. But Aaron Cresswell takes the spot for his eye-catching efforts at West Ham this season.
Phil Jagielka was cut from the main squad to make room elsewhere and Ryan Shawcross has impressed at Stoke. Kieran Trippier edges Jon Flanagan on the right.
A central pairing of Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick might not possess pace, but it is crammed with know-how and nous.
Roy Hodgson has preferred younger legs but the pair remain important Premier League starters at their respective clubs.
Speed is not an issue on the flanks, where the culled Theo Walcott is paired with Jesse Lingard, who earlier this season seemed likelier than club mate Marcus Rashford to make a late surge to the senior squad.
A classic "big man, little man" combination would rekindle England's sides of yesteryear.
Jermain Defoe is arguably as hot in front of goal as anyone else in the country at present and kept Sunderland up with his sniper's eye.
He did so as a lone striker but would surely love to forage alongside Andy Carroll, whose physicality was ultimately deemed surplus to requirements by Hodgson. - PA Sport.
>Theo Walcott (@theowalcott)
I am of course disappointed not to make the squad, but I have spoken with Roy and respect his decision.
>Jack Wilshere (@JackWilshere)
Absolutely buzzing! I can't wait to meet up with the squad and start preparing for the euros. Thanks for all the messages. #England"
>Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker)
Bags of talented youngsters. Great experience for them. Give them their wings, take pressure off, have fun and see where it takes us.
>David James (@jamosfoundation)
Rashford over Carroll, I can understand. Wilshere over Noble, I don't understand. If it's an age issue, Heaton is uncapped and 30!
>Andros Townsend (@andros_townsend)
Huge honour to be named in provisional @England squad for the euros.... Will give my all over next few weeks to try and make final squad!